Why you can’t just ‘set yourself up’ as a copywriter

Last week I had TWO separate phone calls from people asking for advice on how to become freelance copywriters. Both were setting up in business as copywriters but NEITHER had any previous experience.

This is something that really bugs me – the fact that the UK copywriting industry is completely unregulated and literally anyone can set themselves up as a copywriter regardless of whether they have any ‘real world’ copywriting experience or not.

I strongly believe that the ONLY way you can become a ‘proper’ freelance copywriter is by spending a number of years working as a copywriter in an advertising and / or direct marketing agency… in a real creative department on real brands. Or working as a dedicated copywriter in an in-house marketing department.

Take me, for example. Back in the early 1980s when I decided I wanted to become a copywriter, I slogged away for a couple of years in a small Yorkshire advertising agency, building up a Copywriter Portfolio of copywriting work. I was a Director’s PA at the time, not a copywriter, but I persuaded him to let me write a few bits and pieces (brochures, sales letters, etc) and he was happy to oblige (for which I am eternally grateful, Richard!)

In 1988, armed with my copywriting Copywriter Portfolio, I landed a job as a junior copywriter in one of Yorkshire’s top advertising agencies (BRAHM, Leeds). I went on to to work as a senior copywriter in a number of leading advertising and direct marketing agencies (including Poulter plc which was then the largest independent advertising agency outside London).

I worked on a host of top brands before going freelance and launching Creative Copy Copywriting Services. Even as a freelance copywriter I continued to work with top direct marketing agencies (the famous Judith Donovans – now called JDA – being a prime example) – so I’ve always been at the hub of things.

Being able to write powerful sales-led copywriting is something that demands literally YEARS of experience and training. Sorry to sound brutal, but just because you’ve got an A level or degree in English or because you fancy a change and copywriting seems like an easy option, it doesn’t mean that – hey presto! – you’re a copywriter.

And if you’re a business looking for a copywriter, please be sure to always check the copywriter’s experience and credentials. Okay you might get your copywriting a few pounds cheaper (but not necessarily as many of these new kids on the block charge the same hourly rates as the ‘old timers’) but at the end of the day is it worth it?

Find me at www.creativecopy.co.uk

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